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The Top 10 Chinese Searches on Baidu in 2012 — Hint: There’s a Lot About Corruption

Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) loves lists as much as the next human, so the leading Chinese search engine has compiled the top ten searches for hot news topics of the year.

The ten on the list [1] show that China’s web users were mostly concerned with old certainties (death and taxes), prosperity (like the price of silver), and official corruption. In fact, three of the ten topical terms on Baidu in 2012 are related to corruption. Indeed, there’s certainly enough grift and graft out there to fill hundreds of lists thousands of times over.

So, here’s the top ten for 2012:

1. The Wang Lijun controversy:
When one of Chongqing’s top cops, hand-picked by the Party Secretary of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, sought refuge in the US Consulate in the neighboring provincial capital of Chengdu, it was the start of the dramatic fall – bigger, perhaps, than Watergate – of Bo. The police chief was Wang Lijun, who is himself facing 15 years in jail for abuse of power and bribe-taking. It’s debatable if his defection is also being punished in that charge. As for Bo himself, see number three on this list.

2. The price of silver:
In tough economic times, the weighty stalwarts that are gold and silver make fine investments. But the price of silver was volatile throughout 2012, making it a trending search term throughout the year.

3. Bo Xilai is removed from posts:
In a tale that sounds more like some artsy modern-day restaging of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Bo Xilai’s wife was ultimately convicted of the murder of British businessman and totally-not-a-secret-agent Neil Heywood, who, though a friend of the family – had threatened to expose outflows of corrupt money the Bo family were channeling out of China. Basically, blackmail. Shortly after his wife’s imprisonment for dispatching Heywood, Bo was out of his job – and the Party. It was a rare spectacle of political muck-raking in a culture that likes to avoid messiness and dissent. Check out the full timeline of the scandal on the BBC.

Time to put up the prices!

4. Gas prices:
As with motorists around the world, gas prices have been worrying China’s drivers all year. And see number seven on the list for another thing they have to fret about.

5. “Paper gold”:
These gold certificates are essentially savings accounts for gold. Coupled with silver, it’s a way for Chinese households to invest at a time of tightening house-buying rules and suspect stocks and shares.

6. Individual income tax:
In some good news for a change, the income tax exemption was raised this year from 2,000 RMB to 3,500 RMB (US$320 to $560) per month, saving a lot of low-paid workers from a tax bill.

7. Car license-plate lottery:
As if you don’t need to queue or wait for enough stuff in the country already, you can now add car license plates to the unobtanium list. So far this is just in two cities – Beijing and Guangzhou – but I wouldn’t bet against more areas being hit with this requirement in 2013.

8. Labor Contract Law:
This is an odd one, as this law was passed in 2007, but it’s still a crucial thing for both workers and employers to refer too.

9. Double Ninth Festival:
This ancient festival is still celebrated to this day, and is now a public holiday. It’s a popular day for picnics or a trip to the countryside. The festival is always on the ninth day of the ninth month of the lunar calendar.

The show-off. (Image: NBD.com.cn)

10. Official’s daughter-in-law shows off wealth:
Showing off online not only makes one look like a prize tit, but it can also lead to a massive backlash. That’s what happened when the daughter-in-law of a one official (a drug administration bureau chief) showed off her wealth online and revealed that her husband basically gets paid for going to work once a week at a local state-owned company. A corruption investigation was launched into her husband.

So, that’s the list. Well, the list of terms that Baidu was not ordered to remove and suppress by authorities. That’s how it goes.

[Source: Official ‘Baidu Beat’ blog]


  1. Baidu calls these “social searches” to differentiate the topical stuff from the recurring searches for things like “NBA” (the sixth-biggest search term overall) or “Taobao” (the number one). See all the categories here (in Chinese).  ↩


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